Chapter 79! I can't believe it, there's only one more chapter left and then this story is finished! After nearly seven years! It's an amazing feeling! I'm so happy, but at the same time also so sad. This story has accompanied me in so many different parts of my life. While writing this I finished school, moved to another city all alone, finished university, fell in love and got my heart broken several times, everything's just different now. I'm also so happy that I can give our heroes and most importantly Sirius the happy ending they deserve! It's about time that I finish this!
I hope you also like this new chapter, please let me know, that would be awesome! And thanks to everyone who read the story so far!
I don't own the characters or places!
"I don't know what to wear!" Hermione complained loudly. "It's horrible!"
I exchanged a look with Harry. "Didn't she already decide that yesterday?" He asked with a frown.
I nodded. "Yes, but apparently, she isn't happy with that choice anymore. I'll see if I can help." I smiled slightly and met Hermione upstairs in my room. She was looking at two dresses that were lying on the bed skeptically. "Everything all right here?" I asked and she turned around.
"No." She said. "We have to leave soon and I'm still not sure about these." One dress was blue and the other one in a very nice shade of rose.
"I thought you wanted to war the red one." I stated.
"I did." Hermione agreed with a sigh. "It just... doesn't feel like me." She ran a hand through her hair. "I'm being stupid, I know."
I shook my head. "If you don't feel comfortable with it, then just wear something else." I smiled. "You're beautiful in everything."
She laughed shortly. "You always say that. But..."
"Before, you've never cared about clothes. What's different now?" I asked curiously and took her hands.
Hermione hesitated. "Today we'll celebrate that we won the war. You know that everyone thinks about us as heroes. And I feel like I should look special today. The people are having so many expectations -"
"And since when do you care about that?" I interrupted her softly.
She sighed. "I don't know. It's just lots of pressure."
"You're overthinking. Just do whatever you want. This isn't about anyone else. You have to be happy with your choices." I grinned. "Even if it's such a simple thing as clothes."
Slowly, a smile spread on her lips. "I am happy." She pulled me closer and kissed me. "Very happy, to be exact."
I chuckled against her lips. "That's good."
When we pulled back, Hermione looked at me more closely. My hair was growing again, but it was still far too short for my liking. However, I'd let the beard grow again. This made me look a little more like my old self again. I was wearing jeans and a dark blue button down shirt. She smiled. "You're really handsome."
I laughed. "You won't stop emphasizing that. So now come on, wear the white blouse you like so much and let's go."
She hesitated again and I grinned. "If I can go there in jeans and a shirt, you can also do that. You should see Harry."
"He doesn't wear his favorite pullover, does he?" She asked while she started to look for her blouse in the wardrobe.
"Only one way to find out." I was still grinning.
Five minutes later, we entered the kitchen, ready to leave. Harry wasn't wearing a jumper. He'd settled for a grey shirt. When he saw us, he grinned. "Finally! What took you so long, Hermione?"
She turned away to hide her blush. "I just couldn't decide what to wear, that happens."
Harry rolled his eyes. "As if you'd ever cared for your looks." He stood up. "It's time to leave. Otherwise, we'll be late."
"Have you decided if you want to make that speech?" Hermione asked.
Harry hesitated. "Everyone expects me to say something, but I'm not so sure. What if I don't find the right words?"
"You will find them." I placed a hand on his shoulder and smiled encouragingly. "But I'm sure that Kingsley won't force you to do anything. Either you get in front of the crowd and say something or you won't. It's up to you."
Harry nodded and relaxed. "Ron also said that."
"He's right about that." I said when we went to the fireplace. "And now stop worrying and let's have some fun!"
The party was taking place outside. It was a beautiful day in the summer and by now, the whole castle looked as if nothing had happened at all again. Just like most signs of Voldemort and the Death Eaters had been erased. Thanks to Kingsley, the Ministry was also getting more popular with each day. Slowly, everything was getting better.
There were many tables and I was impressed by all the decorations. I knew that a few others had helped Minerva and the other teachers with it, but I didn't expect anything so festive. When we talked towards the lake where everything was located, so many memories came to my mind.
I saw myself sitting close to the lake together with James, Remus and Peter. Those had been simpler days. Most of the time, Remus and Peter tried to learn while James and I did stupid things. Or they watched us. We'd also been sitting there so many times while working on the Marauder's Map. We had been happy then. Also our trips through the castle at night, or those several nights in the Shrieking Shack. Things had been good then.
And I also had other memories of that place. Those which weren't connected to pain. Because James was gone for so long now and he would never come back. Just like Peter, even if he'd make far too many wrong decisions in his life. I could never forgive him. I knew that Remus thought the same. We'd talked very much in the past months.
I also remembered the times with Harry, Hermione and Ron. Sometimes, we'd been doing nothing at all. Or talking about Harry's several lessons with Albus Dumbledore. Or the school in general. I wouldn't say that it had been simple times, but good ones at any rate.
"What are you thinking?" Hermione whispered and took me back to reality.
"I've been sitting there countless times, right under that tree." I said and smiled slightly. "The good old times."
Her expression softened and she squeezed my hand. "I bet James would have been proud of you."
"He would." A voice behind our backs said and I didn't have to turn around to know that it was Remus. "I'm sure of that."
He was smiling at us. Next to him stood Tonks and Teddy was in her arms. Harry and Hermione walked to her immediately to say hello to the little boy. However, I remained standing next to Remus and hugged my best friend. "He would have also been proud of you. You've got a family now."
Remus smiled. It was the first time in years that he looked completely carefree. "I couldn't be happier." He agreed.
"Sirius, Remus!" This time, it was Kingsley who called us.
I grinned and bowed. "Minister."
When I looked up again, he rolled his eyes. "Stop making fun of me, Black." He grinned.
I laughed. "All right, Kingsley." We shook hands. "It's good to see you again. How are things at the Ministry?"
"Everything is fine. They want me to stay Minister of Magic." He explained.
"That would be a good choice." Remus noted. "You have already done so many good things. I know that there's much more you can achieve."
"I have good people by my side." Kingsley said with a smile. "I'm not doing everything alone."
"I know." This time, Remus glanced at Tonks.
"We still need someone who would take over the Auror Office." This time, it was directed at me. "Have you thought about it again?" I had. Very much, to be exact. However, even after months, I still wasn't sure if I wanted to spend my life working at the Ministry of Magic. I didn't have many good memories connected to that place.
"Give me some more time." I ran a hand through my hair.
Kingsley sighed. "You have to make a decision, Sirius. Harry and Ron will also start there soon." He didn't wait for my reply. Instead, he turned to Remus. "You'll be teaching at Hogwarts?"
Remus nodded. "Transfiguration. Since Minerva is Headmistress now, she won't be able to do it anymore. I think it will be nice to teach again. Even if I only had that post for one year, it had been a great experience." He looked at me meaningfully and I grinned.
"You mean except for all the Dementors, the Grim and a certain rat?"
Remus smiled slightly. "Something like that."
Years later, we could both laugh about all the events that had taken place back then. Even if it hadn't been nice at all at that time.
"Why are you standing here all alone?" Fred and George asked at the same time. They were walking towards us, followed by Ginny and Ron. However, they both turned towards Harry. Ginny kissed her boyfriend while Ron placed a hand on Harry's shoulder.
"You should be celebrating!" Fred continued. "After all, today's the day!" They both had a mischievous gleam in their eyes which made me suspicious immediately.
"What did you do?" I asked curiously.
Next to me, Remus raised his eyebrows.
The twins exchanged a look. "Why do you think that we did something?" George demanded to know.
"I've been your teacher once." Remus noted with a slight smile. "And Sirius is also a troublemaker, they always see when something else is going on."
"I'm not a troublemaker!" I complained, but Remus just ignored me.
We didn't have to wait for the answer to my question. Somewhere in the crowd, people cried out and then sparks were flying through the air. They all caused small explosions which resulted in butterflies of all colors. Soon, the shocked cries turned to excited ones.
"Does that answer your question?" Fred asked with a wide grin on his lips.
"That's beautiful." I noted.
"Our own invention." They said proudly. "Took us some time to figure out the right spell. First, we always set the curtains on fire."
"Fred! George!" Molly's angry cry sounded not too far away from us. "You set my handbag on fire!"
"And my brand new cloak!" Percy added loudly.
The twins exchanged wide-eyed looks. "You didn't see us!" Fred hissed and together, they vanished in the crowd. Only seconds later, Molly and Percy ran towards us. Percy's cloak was still smoking and I pointed at it with my wand.
"Where are they?" Molly demanded to know.
Percy smiled at me gratefully, but his expression turned serious again soon. "You saw them, didn't you?"
"They ran this way." Remus said and pointed in the opposite direction of where Fred and George vanished. The look on his face was completely serious, but I knew him well enough to see the mischievous gleam in his eyes. He thought this was highly amusing and I could silently agree.
They looked at us suspiciously. However, Kingsley also nodded seriously and then Molly and Percy left. We were silent for a few more moments, but when it became obvious that Molly and Percy wouldn't return soon, I laughed loudly.
"What's so funny?" Hermione appeared next to me, a curious look on her face.
"Fred and George might have set something on fire with their new trick." I explained and wrapped my arms around her.
"The butterfly thing?" Ron asked and we nodded. "They always set the curtains in their shop on fire with it!" He chuckled. "However, they were sure that it would work today."
"Seems like it didn't." Ginny noted and next to her, Harry was grinning widely. Then Tonks also joined our small circle. In her arms, Teddy was asleep, but I doubted that it would last long. That child had far too much energy.
It was a very nice day. We talked very much and many other people joined us. Everyone who could come was there. All the Weasley's, most members of the Order of the Phoenix, which still existed, even if no one hoped that it would be needed again in times of war. Many students or former students were there and Harry, Ron and Hermione met many people they knew. They introduced me to many of them, but soon, I just stopped trying to remember their names. The biggest surprise of the day was Draco Malfoy. He joined the party rather hesitantly, but once they saw him, Hermione and Harry went to talk to him. Then he relaxed and after some time, others joined their conversation as well. I tried to figure out why Harry and Hermione would talk to him, but I didn't get it.
When they joined us again, I voiced my thoughts. "I don't blame him for anything that happened." Hermione said. "He was a victim of all this."
"Everyone deserves a second chance." Harry muttered thoughtfully. There was a absent-minded look on his face and I could guess what he was thinking. We'd all been wrong about Severus Snape. So why not also Draco Malfoy? I looked over my shoulder. To my surprise, he was talking to Neville and Luna now. Didn't the others say that Draco always bullied Neville?
"Look, there's Aberforth!" Hermione said suddenly. "And Dobby!"
This caught Harry's attention. "I'll go to them, I'll be back soon." He kissed Ginny on the cheek and vanished in the crowd.
"Ah, there you are!" Another voice called. "Hermione, I wanted to talk to you." Arthur said when he stopped next to her. "I've heard something very exciting at the Ministry the other day. Apparently, the Muggles have invented something called internet?"
Hermione looked at him in surprise, but nodded. "Yes, that's true." She agreed. "My parents showed it to me the other day."
"That's fascinating. How does it work? Is it some kind of magic?" Arthur asked curiously and soon, they were busy talking about Muggles and technology. Since Remus was busy with Tonks and Teddy now, I got a moment of peace. It was good to see everyone again, but a little quiet would also be nice after a day full of conversations.
Someone touched my arm carefully. "Would you like to go for a walk?" Minerva McGonagall asked and I smiled at her gratefully. I told Hermione that I'd be right back and together, Minerva and I walked towards the lake. "You looked like you could use a time off." She noted.
I chuckled. "That's true. Slowly, it was getting exhausting." I raised my eyebrows. "But I'm sure you didn't just want to rescue me from the party, Minerva?"
She smiled. "No, indeed, I wanted to talk to you." Ever since she'd become headmistress, Minerva had been really busy. We'd barely seen her at the Order meetings. "When you were younger, you were a real troublemaker, Sirius."
"That's the second time someone mentions it today." I muttered which made Minerva laugh.
"It wasn't meant as an insult." She threw in quickly. "I've had far more difficult students in my time here at Hogwarts."
"Which implies that we've been difficult as well." I noted with a slight smile.
She looked amused now. "You've changed. When I look at you now, I barely recognize the boy you've been so many years ago." Suddenly, her expression turned serious. "I know that you didn't have an easy life. All those events have shaped you."
I looked at her patiently, trying to figure out what she wanted to say. "As you know, Remus will start teaching at Hogwarts in September."
I nodded. "Transfiguration."
"Horace will also join us again as Potions Master. Filius will teach Charms once more. In fact, most of the teachers will return. Only one post is still free. And that's Defense Against the Dark Arts." She smiled and there was a gleam in her eyes. "And we need a new Head for Gryffindor. As headmistress, I can't do it anymore."
I stared at her. "What are you saying?" Defense Against the Dark Arts? They needed someone as Head of Gryffindor?
"I know that Kingsley has offered you a job at the Ministry. Everyone expected you to agree to being head of the Auror Office immediately. Yet you hesitated. Even now, months later, you didn't make a decision." Minerva looked at me attentively. "It seems like you don't want to work there."
"Am I that easy to see through?" I asked and ran a hand through my hair.
She shook her head. "Everyone knows that you don't have many good memories connected to the Ministry of Magic." She explained. "You don't want to work there, do you?"
"When they would have asked me the same questions right after we'd finished school, I would have accepted the job immediately. But now things are different. I want to do something good in my life."
"That's what Aurors do." Minerva said.
"I've had enough of trouble and fighting for a lifetime." I muttered. "I don't think that I could stand that for a long time. Harry and Ron will be happy there, I know it. But I'm done with it." Only in this moment, I realized how true those words were. The past months, I'd been struggling to make a decision, but I'd always been undecided. Right now, everything was perfectly clear.
"Then it's good that I can offer you a different job. I would have never thought that I'd say this one day, but I think you would be a good teacher, Sirius Black." She looked completely serious when she said this. "The post as teacher for Defense Against the Dark Arts could be yours. And you would be the perfect Head of Gryffindor."
"What about Hermione? She'll also return to Hogwarts." Could I really be her teacher?
"I trust you to keep it professional in the lessons. And if it makes you feel better, I think that Remus will also do the exams for Defense Against the Dark Arts with her, if she has any desire to continue with that subject. From our conversations in the past weeks, I assumed that she wants to concentrate on other things." Minerva smiled widely. "So what do you say? How would Professor Black sound to you?"
"If James would still be here, he wouldn't stop making fun of me now." I muttered with a grin. "All right, I'll do it."
Minerva smiled at me. "That's great. I expect you to be at the castle two weeks before the year starts. And now let us go back to the others. There will be a few speeches. In fact, don't want to be too late to my own." She winked at me. "I'm holding the first one."
"That was a great speech!" I told Harry proudly.
He shrugged. "First, I was really nervous. But soon, it was getting better."
"You were really good." Hermione agreed and leaned against me. It was in the afternoon and Harry, Ron, Hermione and I were sitting in the grass under the tree close to the lake. Not too far away from us, people were still celebrating, but we all had enough of it, which was why we'd decided to search for a quieter place.
"'Let's all stand together and make the world a better place. It's up to us. Together, we can do this.' I liked that part." Ron quoted his best friend with a grin.
"Because it's true. I believe in that." Harry said simply. "After all that's happened, I realized something." He looked at all of us. "When you've got good friends – no, your family – by your side, you can do everything."
I smiled widely. "I like the sound of that."
"Me too." Hermione smiled at me and I leaned in to kiss her softly. When we drew back, she raised her eyebrows. "You talked to McGonagall earlier."
When I nodded, Harry looked at me curiously. "What did she want?"
"Even years later, you're still too curious for your own good." I muttered with a smile. "She offered me a job."
"A job?" Ron asked incredulously. "At Hogwarts?"
"They still need a teacher for Defense Against the Dark Arts." I explained. "And a Head of Gryffindor."
"She offered that post to you?" The excitement in Hermione's voice was hard to miss. "What did you say?" She'd known about my doubts concerning the job at the Ministry all along.
I grinned. "Do you think you can manage calling me Professor Black at school for the next year?"
They all stared at me. "You said yes?!" Hermione shrieked.
"You as a teacher at Hogwarts?" Harry looked at me wide-eyed, but there was a grin on his lips. "I'd love to see that!"
"Especially since Remus will also be teaching there!" Ron noted. "That will be an awesome year! Maybe we should have returned after all."
Harry laughed. "It would end in chaos with us there."
I pulled Hermione closer. "What are you thinking?" I whispered into her ear and began to draw patterns on her arm with my free hand.
"I always knew that you wouldn't accept Kingsley's offer." She explained quietly. Ron and Harry were still speculation how another year at Hogwarts would turn out. "I'm happy for you. I bet you'll be a good teacher. Now I regret not continuing Defense Against the Dark Arts."
"You won't?" I asked and raised my eyebrows.
She shook her head. "I've had enough of that for a lifetime. I think the last year has proven that I'm good enough at this. I want to focus on other things."
I smiled. "The last years, love. You've always been brilliant."
She grinned and leaned closer to me to make sure that Harry and Ron couldn't hear her next words. "Well, then, Professor Black. What do you think, how big is the chance that I might manage to sneak into your rooms every night for the next year?"
"I still have the Invisibility Cloak." I muttered and kissed her.
"I love you." She whispered.
"I love you too. More than anything."
I closed my eyes and enjoyed the moment. Harry and Ron were still talking quietly and Hermione joined their conversation soon. This time, it was about the future. Their plans, hopes and fears. I listened but didn't say very much.
So many things had happened in my life and not many of them had been happy. But this would change now. We had the possibility to decide what we wanted to do. And that was good.
The sound of footsteps distracted me. I opened my eyes, but the others hadn't noticed that someone was approaching us yet. It was Remus and he sat down next to me in the grass. The others greeted him but continued with their conversation. They knew that he was here for me. Now all the important people in my life were there.
"It's a beautiful night, isn't it?" Remus asked.
"It is." I agreed with a smile.
"Just like the good old times." He noted with a smile. "We've been out here more nights than I could count."
"And you were always afraid that we'd get caught." I muttered. "We never did."
"I should have had more faith in you." He said thoughtfully.
"Do you think they're watching us? James and Lily?" I asked.
He nodded. "They were."
"I bet they would have found it highly amusing that we're both going to teach here."
Remus chuckled. "James wouldn't have stopped mocking us."
"He would have said that being a teacher really makes us old."
"We are old, Padfoot."
"Not yet." I disagreed. "We've still got so much ahead of us." At this, I tightened my grip around Hermione's waist. "Just wait and see, Moony. The future will be good."
I remembered another time those words had been said, far too many years ago. In our last year at Hogwarts, the night after the exams, we'd also been sitting outside. James, Peter, Remus and I. Peter had told us about his worries concerning the future. Something we all didn't share.
"Just wait and see. The future will be good. There are so many things ahead of us. But one thing will never change. Do you know what it is?" James' eyes had been shining when he'd asked the question.
"I'm sure you'll tell us the answer soon, Prongs." I'd replied with a grin.
"We're the Marauders. We're a team. And we'll always find our way back together." Back then, we'd just laughed at James' optimism. But now I couldn't help feeling sad. Not all of us would find their way back to each other.
Then I glanced at Remus and saw that he was smiling at me. Somehow, I knew that he remembered the same night I did. We both looked up at the stars, just like we'd done it so many years ago.
This time, I knew that everything would be all right.
Next to us, Harry, Ron and Hermione laughed at something one of them said.
Yes, I thought to myself. Everything will be all right.